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For most of us, reading does not come naturally. While kids learn many things through exploration and discovery, reading is something that needs to be explicitly taught to the majority of children.
It’s also one of the most intimidating things to teach.
Teaching a child to read is complex, and the pressure is overwhelming. Reading is a foundational skill that will affect the rest of a child’s education and their daily life profoundly. It’s not surprising that it makes teachers and homeschooling parents a little nervous.
Enter the All About Reading program. For people who have been hearing others rave about this curriculum, but wondered what the big deal is, I have put together an extensive review of the All About Reading curriculum.
To understand the features and benefits of the program, you need to consider what a good reading curriculum looks like.
What Makes a Good Reading Curriculum?
Before diving in to make a purchase, it’s essential to evaluate what you need from a reading curriculum.
Prep and Implementation
Reading programs come with varying degrees of work needed from the teacher, both before the lesson occurs and during the lesson itself.
Check your reading curriculum options to see what kinds of preparation you will need to do, and how teacher intensive the lessons are.
Both your time constraints and the personalities of the teacher and the learner(s) should be taken into consideration when deciding what curriculum would be a good match.
There is extensive research regarding how children learn how to read, and many parents and student teachers are surprised at the science behind learning to read.
Choose a program that is designed based on the latest reading research to ensure that the efforts of both you and your child are more likely to be rewarded.
Putting a lot of effort into a program that isn’t effectively designed can lead to frustration and falling behind.
Learning to read is made up of four main components: phonemic awareness, phonics instruction, fluency, and comprehension. A complete reading curriculum should be well balanced in each area.
Phonological awareness means the understanding and recognition of how words sound. This may sound simple, but it’s really not.
Kids need to be taught to identify phonemes first so that they can recognize each sound in a word. The goal is to combine those sounds eventually. The combination of phonemes makes up syllables. Then you put the syllables together to create the whole word.
Rhyming expressly illustrates how words sound, which is why you will often find rhyme activities to help develop a learner’s phonological awareness. (Who knew that nursery rhymes had a purpose?)
Phonics instruction focuses on taking the phonemic awareness of how words sound and matching them to what words look like.
Each sound matches a printed letter or combination of letters and becomes the building blocks of how to decode words. Without the phonemic awareness built from oral activities, students will not be able to connect the sounds with the letters.
Reading fluency is not synonymous with reading speed, although they are related. Rather fluency is the ability to use multiple skills together in order to read as you speak.
Word recognition, not just decoding, is vital to fluency. Decoding helps you to build up your knowledge of words to recognize them quickly.
Of course, just reading the words well isn’t enough. Fluent readers also pay attention to inflection and phrasing while reading: noting emphasis, punctuation, and other clues that make reading more meaningful.
Comprehension is the takeaway from reading, making it incredibly important when it comes to reading skills. People can read fluently and not understand or retain anything from what they read, which often defeats the purpose.
To teach reading comprehension skills, curriculums must explicitly instruct on how to make connections, predictions, and inferences, as well as guide students, to ask questions and come up with mental images of what they read.
Readers with strong comprehension will be able to put all the information together and pull out the most important parts to remember.
Teachers and parents know they don’t know everything. There will always be questions and surprises along an educational journey. Luckily, many programs come with customer support to help you tackle the obstacles you encounter along the way.
If you’re inexperienced or know you are likely to have a lot of questions, then check the level of support from the company before buying a program. This may save you a lot of time and heartache when things go awry.
The All About Reading curriculum is one of the most thorough and complete programs on the market for teaching your kids to read.
The program is leveled, and each level is sold separately. There is also the one-time purchase of the Reading Interactive Kit that you will use throughout the entire series.
While the price for each level is on the high end for curriculums, the features and benefits of the program are more than worth it.
Kids do not always read on a level that matches their grade. Students are often several levels behind or ahead. When teaching reading, it’s crucial that kids are challenged just the right amount. If it’s too hard, they will get frustrated. Too easy, and they get bored.
The leveled approach allows reading instruction to start where children currently are. There are placements tests for readers and a readiness checklist for pre-readers available for free on the website.
These tools are quick and specific, allowing you to identify what level would be most beneficial to your child.
Reading is made up of many skills that all build upon each other. We already talked about the four main components of reading, and each one of those includes a range of skills and abilities that students will develop.
All About Reading eliminates gaps by explicitly teaching each skill in an order that allows them to master one before moving onto the next. This building blocks method ensures a strong foundation for readers to build upon as they get into deeper and more complex tasks.
Many reading programs come with lessons and a system but leave out exciting activities. This means that teachers and parents have to do their own research to find ways to make learning more exciting.
With the All About Reading curriculum, multiple activities engage many of your child’s senses. This total engagement helps the new concepts stick.
Interacting with each lesson through multiple activities, including tactile ones like magnetic letter tiles, presents the same material in different ways, allowing children to build connections and master new ideas.
This aspect of the curriculum is especially helpful for students with learning differences and challenges such as ADHD. The various mediums help them to move and remain attentive.
All About Reading is designed to support the learner through a gradual release method of teaching.
Like helping your child learn to ride a bike, parents build up kids’ confidence by supporting them. Then you let go, still running alongside for a while, just in case, before allowing them to pedal off.
With this program, instructors first model both the reading and the thinking involved in the lessons. Then, you move onto encouraging the learner to join you and practice together. Students will gain confidence and understanding before moving on to independent practice.
Built for Adaptation
The teacher’s manual is extensive and gives instructors a lot of guidance when it comes to implementing lessons, luckily, without having to spend hours preparing for each one!
The lessons are lightly scripted, giving suggestions for modeling and questions that will check for understanding. They have also added notes and tips to help guide instructors when things don’t go as planned (which they seldom do when kids are involved!)
The curriculum is a great guide but also allows you to make decisions based on your learner. If there are activities that are roadblocks, then you can adjust them (or even skip them) in favor of ones that are a better match.
Since reading skills build on one another, mastery of skills is incredibly important. This program reviews previous ideas at the beginning of each lesson, giving students multiple exposures to the same material.
The review might seem repetitive or unnecessary, but it’s one of the things allowing so many kids to have reading success with All About Reading. The continued practice builds their confidence and helps them remember the skills they already know before moving on to learn more difficult ones.
Reading must be explicitly taught, but drills and lists of words can only take you so far. For kids to become fluent readers with excellent comprehension, they must engage in meaningful practice.
The stories included with the All About Reading curriculum are entertaining while also being instructive. Because the stories make sense, kids get to practice their skills in a way that will encourage understanding and growth.
My favorite feature of this curriculum is the incredible customer support. In addition to the information available on their website, teachers can call All About Reading to get expert advice and opinions.
This benefit is available with every purchase and lasts a life-time so if you plan to use the curriculum multiple times as your kid’s age, then you can call and get the help you need no matter what.
Alternative Reading Programs
All About Reading is a top-notch program, but it isn’t for everyone. Most notable, if you have an independent learner who resists a lot of teacher interaction, then it may not be a good fit for you. Luckily, there are lots of options out there that you can explore.
Children Learning Reading
Children Learning Reading is another comprehensive reading program that teachers and parents can use.
It is mostly online-based, but there are offline capabilities, and you can always print out your materials for non-technology based teaching.
The program is geared toward younger kids, and you can check out our comprehensive review for more information.
The Classical Phonics program is geared toward young readers with an emphasis on phonics instruction and phonemic awareness.
They have lessons that build upon one another, teaching children to read in a systematic way that is very beneficial and excel at explicit instruction of spelling and reading rules.
Without an accompanying reader, it allows instructors and students to pick books that have topics that interest them, as opposed to using provided options.
Designed for beginning and elementary level readers, Delightful Reading Kits teach students phonics and sight words using word families, vocabulary lists, and sentences taken from their reader.
Both leveled and complete, the kits give teachers everything they need to implement meaningful lessons.
The reader’s stories drive instruction, so everything goes together well. Kids who like a challenge will enjoy learning vocabulary words that are more complex than usual and will feel confident and excited about their reading skills.
The All About Reading program is a winner.
Before purchasing, you will need to weigh the cost of the program against the completeness of the materials, as well as consider if it’s a good fit for the personalities of both the intended student and teacher.
If you think the program is a good fit, it’s worth every penny and minute of your time you will spend. Teaching a child to read well is a priceless gift and a great way to give your child the tools they need to succeed.